Leadership Training Topics: The Essential Checklist

Whether we’ve been one of the parties in an awkward supervisor/supervisee relationship, or we’ve watched poor leadership practices impact our organization, we all know managing people requires a specific skill set. Just because we give an individual contributor a new title doesn’t mean they have the skills they need to lead teams effectively—much less enjoy it.

A CareerBuilder survey reports more than 26% of managers said they weren’t ready to become a leader when they started managing others, and 58% said they didn’t receive any management training at all. According to the ATD whitepaper Experiential Learning for Leaders, only 28% of business executives say they’re effective at developing leaders.

Wow.

Leadership training is critically important. In this post, we hope to help you get started on the program your managers need. We’ll make it easy to identify the leadership training topics you need to consider, and we’ll explore different ways you can implement your program.

 

Leadership Training Topics

Even though the manager onboarding statistics are concerning, the good news is this—leadership training is a wonderful place to build a strong, sustainable culture of learning.

We’ve compiled a checklist of leadership training topics to help you answer this question: Where do my managers need to build their skills?

Leadership Learning Experiences

Okay, keep that strategy hat on and answer this next question: What type of training experience would be ideal for your managers?

Ultimately, you want to identify the must-haves that will unleash the most benefits for your company and culture. Here are some considerations to help you brainstorm. In order to meet business, manager, and team needs, many programs choose to blend two or three of these approaches.

 

IN-PERSON FACILITATED
PROS
CONS
More opportunities to bond, build a support network, and share best practices If facilitated as a full-day or multi-day event, follow-up activities should be developed and implemented to encourage application and defeat the “forgetting curve”
High learner accountability If facilitated as a full-day or multi-day event, may involve extra costs such as hotel, travel, and food
Limited distractions Managers are not as accessible to their team members
Can be developed in bite-sized formats and facilitated in-house to provide continuous learning

 

 VIRTUAL INSTRUCTOR-LED
 PROS
CONS
No travel required Fewer opportunities to bond, build a support network, and share best practices
Can be developed in bite-sized formats and facilitated in-house to provide continuous learning Difficult to measure engagement beyond course participation

Managers are susceptible to more distractions during the training

Technology challenges with video, Internet connectivity, and sound can negatively impact the learning experience

 

SELF-PACED ON DEMAND/JUST-IN-TIME
PROS
CONS
No travel required Fewer opportunities to bond, build a support network, and share best practices
Simple course completion tracking Difficult to measure engagement beyond course completion
Typically organized in bite-sized courses, so managers can balance training with supporting their teams Managers are susceptible to more distractions during the training
Consistent information and experience
Easy to administer

 

Leadership Training Timing

Based on our experience, the best time to enroll managers in training is right when they’ve been promoted, or “just in time.” Relevant leadership training is the antidote to sink-or-swim, a practice that hurts confidence, morale, and your company’s net promoter score.

Waiting for managers to ask for help is risky. You’ll lose productivity, and some of your managers with the potential to be great leaders might realize another company offers more support and professional development.

When it comes to leadership training, strike while the iron is hot, when managers are eager to learn. Proactively equip them with the skills they need to confidently excel in their new role.

 

Next Steps

Hopefully, you’re starting to get a vision for the type of leadership training topics your managers need, and the type of learning experiences that will support your goals. Keep in mind learning experiences can be combined in order to create a blended approach, and you can always hire a partner to help you develop your strategy.

Managers want to feel equipped for their roles so they can make a positive impact on your company and the lives of their direct reports. When you build their skills and confidence, you create a more sustainable organization and a better place to work.

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What Brené Brown Teaches Us About Effective Leadership Training

After recently finishing Brené Brown’s newest book, Dare to Lead, I already think it’s my favorite book of the year – and it’s not even summer yet! I resonated so much with this book personally, and as someone who professionally helps organizations grow their teams, it was hard to ignore what Brown’s message means for how we develop effective leadership training.

Brown defines a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.”

Throughout the book, she answers the question leaders in organizations ranging from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 50 companies are asking: How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture?

What struck me was that I’ve always thought of courage as an inherent trait; however, thankfully for Brené Brown, I now understand it differently. In Brown’s words, “it is less about who people are, and more about how they behave and show up in difficult situations.”

And fortunately, courage is a collection of four skill sets that we can learn. Yes. Learn!

The four courage skill sets are:

  • Rumbling with Vulnerability
  • Living into Our Values
  • Braving Trust
  • Learning to Rise

Most effective leadership training today contain these four components. Let’s look more closely at how we can teach and develop these skills in our content.

 

Four Effective Leadership Training Components

1. Rumbling with Vulnerability

If we want to develop daring leaders that push our organizations forward, we must create environments where our leaders and teams can be vulnerable. Brown defines vulnerability as, “the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” And I think we can all agree that in our work, we encounter at least two of these on a regular basis. After all, some of the most life changing inventions of all time – the lightbulb, air travel, and the iPhone – definitely didn’t come in the world without a little uncertainty and risk.

Creating Psychologically Safe Environments

Brown writes, “If we want to people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts – so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people – we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.”

Google’s five-year study on highly productive teams found that psychological safety – team members feeling safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other – was “far and away the most important of the five dynamics that set successful teams apart.”

So, how do we train our leaders to create these kinds of environments? We need to train leaders on listening, honesty, and keeping confidence with a heavy emphasis on emotional intelligence.

We also need to teach that courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. You can feel brave and afraid at the same time. This is vulnerability and it’s okay. When our leaders are beating this drum and encouraging their teams to embrace these feelings, we’ll get innovation and creative-problem solving as a result.

We Need to Rumble

According to Brown, a rumble is a “discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and problem solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”

And in order for our teams to rumble with vulnerability, we need to empower our leaders against rewarding armoring behaviors like blaming, shaming, cynicism, perfectionism, and emotional stoicism. It’s time to take the armor off, and when it’s laid to the side, we’ll get teams that can fully thrive and create groundbreaking work.

 

2. Living into Our Values

Organizations and Leaders Need to Define their Values

In the organizational development world, we hear about values a lot. Many of our organizations have them (if yours doesn’t, advocate to make them a priority), but how many of us have taken the time to define our own values? The foundation of effective leadership training should be helping your leaders intentionally define their values. Brown recommends having just two values. Why? Because according to her research, “The participants who demonstrated the most willingness to rumble with vulnerability and practice courage tethered their behavior to one or two values, not ten. At some point, if everything on the list is important, then nothing is truly a driver for you. It’s just a gauzy list of feel-good words.”

Translate Values from Ideals to Behaviors

It’s not enough for organizations and leaders to just identify values, we have to teach people the skills they need to demonstrate them. I think Brown explains it best when she says, “The reason why we roll our eyes when people start talking about values is that everyone talks a big values game but very few people actually practice one.”

And the proof is in the pudding, according to Brown, “Only about 10 percent of organizations have operationalized their values into teachable and observable behaviors that are used to train their employees and hold them accountable.” Yikes!

This means that our leadership training needs to clearly outline how the organization’s and leader’s values translate into specific behaviors. Here’s an example of what this looks like from Brown’s organization. “Be Brave” is the organizational value and below that are the three behaviors to support it.

Be Brave
  • I set clear boundaries with others.
  • I lean into difficult conversations, meetings, and decisions.
  • I talk to people, not about them.

3. Braving Trust

Without trust, we have no connection, and if we can’t connect, vulnerability has no place. Trust is so vital to our teamwork that in Fortune’s research done for the annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, they found that, “Trust between managers and employees is the primary defining characteristic of the very best workplaces.”

Brown takes our understanding of trust even further by defining the seven elements of trust (she calls this The BRAVING Inventory), so leaders have the language they need to give constructive feedback to their teams. She says, “Rather than rumbling generally about trustworthiness and using the word trust, we need to point to specific behaviors. We need to be able to identify exactly where the breach lies and then speak to it.” Your leadership training should be speaking to these seven elements too.

The BRAVING Inventory – The Seven Elements of Trust
  • Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask.
  • Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do.
  • Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
  • Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share.
  • Integrity: You choose courage over comfort.
  • Nonjudgement: We can talk about how we feel and ask for help without judgment.
  • Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

4. Learning to Rise

Daring leaders also need resilience skills. Brown says, “We can’t expect people to be brave and risk failure if they’re not prepped for hard landings.” Effective leadership training wouldn’t be complete without content on these skills. Brown has created a process called Learning to Rise that outlines how to be resilient.

The Learning to Rise Process
  • The Reckoning: Knowing that we’re emotionally hooked and then getting curious about it.
  • The Rumble: Acknowledging the stories (often untrue and based on our fears and insecurities) we tell ourselves to make meaning of hard situations.
  • The Revolution: Taking off the armor and rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust with open hearts, and learning to rise so we re-claim authorship of our own stories and lives is the revolution.

In the spirit of Brené Brown, I’ll be vulnerable with you. Writing this post was challenging! Dare to Lead is chock-full of wisdom that should not only impact how we create meaningful and effective leadership training for our organizations, but also how we personally lead ourselves and our teams. Brown gives us so much valuable information that can be applied to leadership training (definitely read the book for yourself), and the four components you just read about are what I think is missing from leadership training today.

I’m so grateful for Brené Brown and the work she’s doing to help us step into daring leadership. When these tactics are incorporated into our leadership training, we’ll get the results we’re looking for and arm our leaders with the meaningful information and skills they need to be successful.

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Why Your Best Individual Contributor Isn’t Ready to be a People Manager

If you’re a leader in your organization, chances are you’re able to pinpoint your top performer. It’s only natural to want to reward that team member with a promotion and give them a platform to make more waves within your organization. But have you stopped to consider that, according to ATD, 60% of people managers underperform or fail within their first two years?

Where does this 60% rate come from? By promoting your best individual contributor, you’re asking them to work with a new set of skills. They’re filling a role they may not be prepared for and your remaining team is scrambling to fill the gap.

So,  before you jump to handing out that promotion, take a moment to ask yourself the following questions.

 

Are They Prepared to be a People Manager?

 

People Manager Leadership 1

Much like Liam Neeson in Taken, your top contributor has “a very particular set of skills.” But how many of these skills transfer to the role of a people manager?

It goes back to the concept of Maker versus Manager. Your best individual contributor is a Maker—they focus on creating a specific product or owning a specific service. Managers on the other hand focus on the organization as a whole, company and team goals, and the professional development of their direct reports.

That means your team member will go from day-to-day tasks that focus on creating or making, to a role that’s focused on owning the professional development and performance of other employees — and with that comes a complete shift in their schedules, too. They’ll go from large blocks of brainstorming and heads down time to a calendar full of performance reviews, 1:1s with their direct reports, and ongoing strategy meetings.

This change can be jarring. The stress that comes with being promoted outside of their skill set could mean they begin to feel (for the first time) they aren’t excelling in their role. That sense of personal disappointment leads to a lack of fulfillment and, ultimately, the end of that top performer’s journey with your organization.

A Grovo survey of 500 managers found that 87 percent of managers wish they’d had more training before their promotion.

To help set the employee up for success, offer them a leadership training program to build key people management skills. The training should be multi-faceted and should include self-paced courses, coaching via 1:1 meetings, videos or simulations. Across these modalities, you’ll want to teach your team member the best ways to give feedback, build up their coaching skills, and remind them the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication styles and emotional intelligence.

Are You Prepared to Fill the Void?

Pulling your best individual contributor away from the day-to-day tasks they’ve come to be so good at means you should have a plan in place for how you’ll fill that gap. If you don’t, you may see an impact on your business in terms of quality and service speed, and your customers may even take notice.

You also don’t want your other team members to feel overburdened once you’ve promoted your top performer. If they do, there’s a trickle-down effect that could mean an increase in stress level and decrease in morale.

In order to get ahead of those concerns, make sure you have training in place to help the other team members level up to match the top performer’s current skills.

Their training should be targeted to the specific role and level you’re trying to fill. To kick off the training, use a Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (or BARS Chart) to define what not acceptable, good, and great looks like in that vacant role. Then, use it to gauge where your current team members fall and create targeted improvement plans based on their areas of opportunity.

For added sustainment, use a 30, 60, 90-day action plan to help set milestones and measure achievements as they work to improve their skills according to that BARS Chart. Then, meet with these employees at the 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day benchmarks to see if they’re tracking on their current goals.

To be sure you’re ready to make that staffing change, you have to do everything you can to prepare and get ahead of that 60% statistic. This means investing in developing your top performer’s leadership skills and training their replacement. This two-pronged training approach is essential to making sure the transition for your best individual contributor and your team as a whole is as smooth as possible.

Need a hand? We have over a decade of training experience and can help find the perfect blend of training for your unique situation. Want to hear more about self-paced course options, videos or simulations, BARS Charts, or 30, 60, 90-day action plans?  Give us a call.

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How To Combat The Forgetting Curve

How many times have you focused really hard in an effort to learn something once just to forget it later on? For most of us, it’s a regular occurrence. Over time, memories fade. Good memories, bad memories, important memories…all of them. That doesn’t mean we forget everything entirely – just that the details become fuzzy. If those details are important, that could be a serious problem.

The forgetting curve is a hypothesis that attempts to illustrate the loss of memory over time with no attempt to retain it. The idea began in the 1880s when Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted a study on himself. He tried to memorize patterns of syllables and then tested his memory of those syllables repeatedly over time. What he found after graphing his results is now commonly known as the Forgetting Curve.

After his study, Ebbinghaus surmised that humans lose ~50% of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days without continuous review. You’re wasting your time training and learning just so you can forget half of it. Try remembering that information weeks or months later and you’d be lucky to remember 10-25% of it.

The best way to combat the forgetting curve is by spending time on retention and reinforcement. Remembering the knowledge learned from one-time trainings is difficult. But when it comes to business, forgetting is costly. One-time trainings cost a lot, and if your learners aren’t retaining what they learned, that money was for nothing. Reviewing material regularly greatly helps reduce forgetfulness and saves money for your organization.

 

Blended Learning and Sustainment

 

increasing employee training with reinforcement training 2

 

Refresher training adds to the concept of blended learning. Your learners retain information and knowledge better and for longer if they’re taught through a mixture of learning methods. That could be combining eLearning with face-to-face for instance.

Every learner has a unique learning style. By blending your training approach, you have a better chance of catering to the needs of each of your learners.

It’s not only about the learners, though. Blended learning benefits the teacher, too. New, different training modalities are often more affordable and require less time than older ones. Students are often more engaged, and you’ll be more able to provide accurate feedback. Blended learning also allows teachers to focus on motivating learners towards deeper learning.

With regards to memory, a learner is far more likely to pay attention to and remember information when they’re interested and focused. Varying training modalities increases the odds that your learners will find it interesting.

 

What Makes for Ideal Refresher Training?

There are certain traits that make for successful refresher training:

• Quick
Learners are busy. Sustainment training options need to be speedy, valuable, and allow learners to practice with minimal disruption. 

• Compelling and Clear
Training options should be fun and interactive while keeping language clear and concise to simplify complex concepts.

• Contextual
Refresher training has to fit with your learners’ experiences and be relevant to their day-to-day jobs. That can only be accomplished with an understanding of your learners and what they do and then catering to their real-world experiences.

 

The Case for Shorter Event-Based Trainings

 

increasing employee training with reinforcement training 3

 

Event-based trainings are still very popular among many companies and rightfully so. Instructor-led trainings have their place in unifying a team, sharing a consistent message, and sometimes forcing your employees not to be distracted when sharing vital information.

However, we’ve seen that if you reduce your two-day training down to one-day and use the saved expenses for pre-work and post-event refreshers, your message will be stickier and have more of an impact on learners.

Consider the following illustration we mocked up for one of our clients to visualize the potential savings gained from shortening, blending, and making your training virtual – all-the-while adding reinforcement and the ability to reuse and scale!

The results, in this case, were significant. This company saw a similar satisfaction score from transitioning their previous event-based training to virtual instructor-led training and better yet, they were able to prove ROI with knowledge checks and quizzes.

 

Refresher Training Options

Today, blended learning options that combat the conundrum of forgetfulness are as diverse as your learners. Here are a few sustainment options that should be considered in your training curriculum:

• Interactive Presentations
Interactive presentations act as two tools in one. Learners are able to reinforce knowledge and visualize complex products and services (ex. the difference between internet speeds) by using interactive modules. These presentations can also switch to a “Perform” mode to be used and shared with prospects or clients. Robust reporting measures all user activity so managers can provide guidance for their learners.

• Huddles
Huddles are in-person refresher training that drives retention by using fast-paced, hands-on activities. Facilitators lead Huddles to help employees review specific learning objectives, practice skills and behaviors, and get feedback on the spot. They’re also super easy to facilitate as each one comes with a playbook providing step-by-step instructions on how to prepare for and run a Huddle.

• Games
Studies show that games train the brain by engaging with social and competitive elements. These elements heighten attention, sustain focus, and drive action. And let’s be real, they’re fun. The results speak for themselves:

• 3x increase in training material interactions
• 64% improvement in knowledge from beginning to end of a game Plain and simple, training for one day a year does not work.

Don’t waste your money and time on training that won’t be remembered a week later. It’s time to give your learners valuable refreshers in the flow of their work and for you to stop hitting your head against a wall wondering why skills are not improving and behaviors are not changing.

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Storytelling in Training

Stories have a way of sticking with us. Whether it’s the book on your bedside table, an anecdote shared over coffee, or the latest drama on a favorite TV series, there’s something about a well-told story that captivates.

Entertainment is just a secondary perk, though. The art of storytelling is centuries old, used initially to pass on information from person to person. When we employ the technique in training, we’re looking to capitalize both benefits: spreading knowledge to learners while holding their attention and engaging their interest.

 

Why Use Storytelling

Storytelling is just one of the many tools in our training arsenal. It’s one of our favorites as it allows us to draw on our creativity, however, there are three other core reasons we gravitate toward the solution.

1. Storytelling creates an emotional connection between learners and lessons. As stories draw us in, we continually react, both emotionally and physically as they unfold. Scientists have seen this come alive in brain scans of learners. When presented with narratives and sensory-heavy language, larger portions of the brain are activated than just the language processing areas.

2. Storytelling allows us as content experts to injects creativity and levity into complex, dry topics. From systems to security, we tackle topics that are critical for organizations and learners but may skew a bit boring on the boring side. By transforming facts, processes, and procedures into a narrative, we’re able to hold learner attention longer and boost the likelihood that they’ll actually enjoy their training experience.

3. Storytelling makes content memorable. We want our training to stick. When a learner completes one of our training programs, our intention is that they can take what they’ve learned and immediately apply those skills. Beyond that, we want them to retain that information and be able to carry it through their work for a long period of time, sharing it with other team members as appropriate.

How to Use Storytelling

 Now that you know the value behind the technique, let’s pull the curtain back on some simple best practices for incorporating storytelling into your training:

• Follow the classic story arc. Start with a clear beginning to set the stage for what is to come, introducing concepts and characters on which to build the rest of the story. Create tension or conflict in the middle of the story, resolving it and reinforcing the lesson in the end.

• Be creative. Use relatable characters and probable scenarios to help illustrate the concepts and/or processes that a learner needs to understand. Imagine the learner’s on-the-job experience and look for ways to create an engaging, parallel experience with your content.

• Use descriptive language. Choose phrasing that connects with the senses, describing experiences in terms of the way they look, feel, smell, sound, or taste.

• Incorporate supporting images. Nothing makes stories come alive like compelling imagery. Whenever possible, incorporate graphics, animation, or live-action visuals to better illustrate concepts and provide some visual support for what is happening in your narrative.

Regardless of the modality your training employs, consider ways you might incorporate these concepts into its construction. That’s the approach we take, looking for opportunities to inject our signature creativity into our content to engage learners and drive results.

 

Storytelling in Practice

When it comes to using storytelling in training, we’ve found that simulations lend themselves particularly well to the approach. These choose-your-own-adventure style trainings allow learners to explore different pathways and their results with no actual risk.

We recently built a pair of simulation videos for a real estate leasing company as part of a multi-modality curriculum focused on their new sales method. The videos followed the actions of a leasing agent as she worked to fill a unit in her community.

Throughout each, we created opportunities for learners to choose how to approach various points of conflict within the process. A play off of ‘Million Dollar Listing,’ the project allowed us to pull cultural references and humor into the story, making it particularly relevant to the company’s audience of leasing agents.

Want to see how we can help you take your training to the next level with creative storytelling? Connect with us today.

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Change Management Training for Employees – Embracing the Change

Picture this – you’re ready to make a big change in your company. Maybe it’s a change to your benefits or compensation structure, or a big shift in management. But you look around at all of your employees comfortably working and hesitate to upend what is familiar to them.

That hesitancy is understandable. McKinsey estimates that “70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.” The good news is there’s a way to reduce the likelihood of your change program failing. That’s where change management training for employees comes in.

 

Preparing Employees for Change

When a big shift happens, wouldn’t it be great to not just prepare employees for change but to create advocates for change. With effective change management training, you’ll be able to ensure your employees understand and are invested in the change at your company. 

You might be wondering how this works. The best change management training contains three main elements:

1.   A Communication Plan – How are you going to communicate an upcoming change to your employees? For big changes, a simple email isn’t going to do the trick. It’s important to think through the change and how best to convey it to employees. This might mean a phased approach, plans for team meetings, and bringing in executives for support. Take time to really evaluate the impact of the change and how to best minimize surprise and difficulties for your employees.

2.   A Leadership Toolkit – Leaders set the mood for your change. Everyone is going to look to them to gauge how to feel. An effective change management training program provides a toolkit for leaders to guide their teams through change. It gives them the resources they need to field questions from their teams, address any pushback from team members, build empathy, and set a positive example for the rest of the organization.

3.   A Strategy to Maintain Productivity – Change can be disruptive, but it doesn’t have to bring everything to a grinding halt. Training should include how to deal with potential distractions and roadblocks as you implement change, that way you don’t lose profits while you work toward change. Maintaining stability in this way can also help your employees feel more secure amidst all of the change.

 

Making Change Management Stick

Training shouldn’t end once the change has been implemented. We all know sustainment training can help training stick by reinforcing lessons learned. But change management sustainment training can look a little different. Here are a few ideas to try to make sure your change works long term.

Use micro-learnings: Once employees have completed their change management training, reinforce what they learned with quick quizzes or mini-eLearning modules that cover key concepts.

Create a support network: Set up a network and encourage team members to meet, discuss the change and any challenges they’ve faced, and work through problems with their leaders.

Check-in with teams: Following the completion of their training, encourage team members to set goals for how they will effectively deal with change. Check-in at 30, 60, and 90 days after the program to ensure they’re working toward their goals.

 

Moving Forward

Instead of fearing change, embrace it with a great plan in place. As John Assaraf once said, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Grow your company’s potential by making changes that move you in the right direction.

Ready to make a big change but need some support? Check out our change management training for employee options for more details.

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